Would you pay thousands of dollars to watch Sylvester Stallone and his aging action cohorts in 2010's The Expendables? Probably not. In fact, there could be a solid debate as to whether watching the film is even worth a menial rental fee. Regardless, over 23,000 users who downloaded the movie for free via BitTorrent could have to pay thousands in legal fees, as they are in the process of being sued for piracy by the U.S. Copyright Group.
The U.S. Copyright Group is a collection of lawyers headed by Thomas Dunlap. The group's tactics involve monitoring file sharing technology such as BitTorrent to record the IP addresses of internet users that download movies illegally. Once the group records the IP addresses, they proceed to file lawsuits against hordes of John Doe defendants. The group then obtains subpoenas that require internet service providers to divulge the actual names of the downloaders. With the true identities released, the group sends out letters threatening of lawsuits unless a settlement payment is made. The settlement offers usually hover in the range of $1,000 to $3,000, and the group takes a percentage of the payments in exchange for their work.
The U.S. Copyright Group's current case that centers on downloaders of The Expendables began in February of this year. At that time, only 6,500 IP addresses were listed in the case, but that number has recently surpassed the 23,000 mark. A federal judge has now granted the subpoena to obtain the identities of the accused downloaders from the ISPs, which means that the number of people included in the lawsuit could increase. Officially, each downloader could be hit with a $150,000 fine for the offense. That's rather unlikely, however, as the group will seek to receive quick and easy settlements instead.
If you receive a notice that you are a part of the Expendables suit, you are not alone. Besides the 23,000-plus involved in that particular case, there are also over 140,000 BitTorrent users accused of online piracy in other cases based in the United States. Many of the movies at the center of these cases are not blockbusters, either. Instead, many of the movies in question are obscure. Even worse, many are adult films. Lawyers representing adult film companies know that the sheer embarrassment of having someone's name publicized for such downloading could cause them to cave in and pay settlements out of fear. The practice of suing in these cases can become very profitable if settlement payments are made. This has led many companies to pay people to monitor BitTorrent sites and record user IP addresses.
Whether or not the U.S. Copyright Group and litigious firms will be successful in their pursuits against downloaders remains to be seen. Many people will likely give in to the threats and pay settlements, while others will probably take the wait and see approach. Either way, if you want to avoid such trouble, avoid downloading torrents and secure your wireless networks to prevent other downloaders from doing so as well.
For more on this topic, visit http://www.geek.com/articles/news/u-s-copyright-group-suing-23000-bittorrent-downloaders-20110511/
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